The case for bringing back Shaun Marcum

As it stands, the Brewers are looking at a 2013 starting pitching rotation consisting of five of the following pitchers: Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, and perhaps Tyler Thornburg or Hiram Burgos.

AP Photo

AP Photo

With a batting lineup that would look good on a contender, this makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

Of those eight pitchers, exactly one of them has ever started 30 games in a season, Yovani Gallardo. If we ignore Gallardo as the only pitcher of the bunch with no question marks, it looks like this:

Marco Estrada: 32 starts, 4.32 ERA in his career

Chris Narveson: 63 starts, 4.67 ERA

Mike Fiers: 22 starts, 3.68 ERA

Wily Peralta: 5 starts, 2.48 ERA

Mark Rogers: 9 starts, 3.49 ERA

Tyler Thornburg: 3 starts, 4.50 ERA

Hiram Burgos: 0 major league appearances

It worries me greatly that the Brewers are thinking about handing 80 percent of our starting rotation over to these guys. Marco Estrada was very, very good last year, but just two years ago, he was a non-roster player in spring training. Chris Narveson was thought of as a “good number five starter” before he missed all of last season due to injuries. Fiers, Peralta, and Rogers have all had success in the majors, but with just 36 major league starts between the three of them, a serious small sample size alert is in order. It’s highly unlikely that all three of them would have the same success – or at least comparable success – as they’ve had in the past over the course of a full season.  And, don’t forget, Fiers was much worse at the end of last season than he was earlier. Rogers has serious injury concerns of his own. Thornburg and Burgos need more time in the minors. Continue reading


Old Hoss Radbourn’s Top 100

old-hoss-radbournFor those of you who might be on twitter, I hope you’re familiar with the exceedingly funny twitter account, OldHossRadbourn.  For those of you who are not, the account is the fictional account of the long deceased pitcher, who makes often hilarious comments about the modern game in early 20th century style.  And for those of you unfamiliar with the real Charles Radbourn, he was a pitcher in the late 1800s who holds the single-season record for wins (59), was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939, and is apparently the first person to ever be photographed while flipping the bird.

Over the last few days, ESPN has released its list of the 100 greatest baseball players of all time.  It’s a fun list to look at, and I suggest you check it out.  What is more fun, however, are the tweets that Old Hoss made about each of the 100 players.  I’ve compiled them, because they’re just that good.

Enjoy. I sure did.

  1. G. Ruth. A fine pick if you believe never playing against anyone other than whites is a fair measure of greatness.* *-exception: me.
  2. W. Mays. Just remember this phrase: “Greenies are ok because of nostalgia.” Repeat.
  3. B. Bonds. Has nicely polarized base ball’s electorate, reducing their writing to screeds of “neener neener.” Just fight it out, nancies.
  4. T. Williams. Cold and aloof, just like the daddies of the men who glorified him. Writing about the Kid ain’t making Papa come home, son.
  5. H. Aaron. “I Miss you, Hammer. Unnnhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” – Noon time sounds from “Bud” Selig’s private office.
  6. T. Cobb. Demented racist whose style of base ball I adore. Nicknamed “Georgia Peach” because peaches are apparently grown in sphincters.
  7. R. Clemens. If you hate him, take pleasure in knowing every single day of his life removes him from the only thing he loves: relevance.
  8. S. Musial. The one good thing about this list is that Cardinals fans may no longer mewlingly whine about how overlooked he is.
  9. M. Mantle. American hero who never lived up to his talents or the money lavished on him, much like the generation which venerated him.
  10. H. Wagner. Another German. You’ll notice the dearth of Irishmen here in the upper echelons of greatness. We are racists-in-arms, ESPN.
  11. H. Gehrig. True story: pummeled W. Pipp half to death with a shovel then stoically submitted his application for the open job at 1B.
  12. W. Johnson. Nick-named “The Big Train” but as a lad rode the Short Wagon to school. Won 417 games. It took him 802 to do so. Pathetic.
  13. G. Maddux. Fine hurler despite looking like your eccentric uncle who gets handsy after a few drinks. I am so much better than this guy.
  14. R. Henderson. Every single story you’ve heard is true, including his groundbreaking work at the Jet Propulsion Lab on “Project Rickey.”
  15. R. Hornsby. “Never smoked or drank.” I think that sums it up.
  16. M. Schmidt. He was great. Big deal. Try that cutesy stance with me, sir, and you would die.
  17. D. Young. Well, you won in the end, Denton. I see the award for seasonal excellence is named after your consistent mediocrity. Kudos.
  18. A. Rodriguez. Unappreciated due to scribal belief his inability to manage his persona is more important than how well he does his job.
  19. A. Pujols. Slugging grouch. Wears his heart & faith on his sleeve and wants you to know it. Cards fans were classy indeed when he left.
  20. J. Morgan. Had many talents, the greatest being inserting his head so far up his posterior as to not understand the game he dominated.
  21. J. DiMaggio. Italian. Overcame it. Done a tremendous disservice by R. Cramer, as readers mistook salacious mudslinging for journalism.
  22. F. Robinson. Ordered a lad off his lawn then beat him with a tire iron anyway. Golfed his way to Washington as the Expos burned.
  23. R. Johnson. A trebuchet in a land of crossbows. 100 CG over 22 years. The Big Unit had little stamina. Typical.
  24. G. Seaver. Greatest Met of all time, which is like naming syphilis the king of venereal diseases. 231 CG in 20 years. Took me 5 months.
  25. T. Speaker. “Tris Speaker is one of the most underrated players in history.” Bah! Excellent work reifying that by ranking him so low.
  26. S. Carlton. Completed 254 of his 709 starts, which makes him a veritable ironman in this gynocratic future of yours.
  27. J. Bench. A fine player and leader of the Great Red Machine in their movement to unseat L. Trotsky and establish Stalinist dominance.
  28. J. Foxx: Fun fact: managed a female professional base ball team, which along with a perpetual poppy plant is my dream.
  29. C. Mathewson. Great hurler. Gassed in the 1st World War. Good job, ESPN. Demerits for keeping blovating loads like S.A. Smith around.
  30. G. Brett: You had him and barbecue, Kansas City, and Brett’s not coming back.
  31. C. Ripken. Shockingly rude of him not to catch Cal Ripken’s Disease and pass away before breaking L. Gehrig’s streak.
  32. B. Gibson. A man of epic stature, endurance, and mean-ness who failed to fire one right through T. McCarver’s face.
  33. R. Clemente. A serial killer of the T. Gwynn model. Fooled everyone.
  34. K. Griffey, Jr. In a perfect world he is frozen in time in 1999, leaving us the memory of absolutely joyful base ball.
  35. L. Ryan. So tough he completed 222 of his 773 starts. And yet G. Alexander languishes at 50.
  36. M. Ott. Should be about 10 or so spots higher. ESPN’s technicolor oppression of the black and white generation continues unabated.
  37. P. Rose. Boy, B. James sure picked the wrong pony with this one.
  38. Hahahahahahahahahahaha oh my lord no, there’s no East Coast bias here, oh no.
  39. E. Mathews. Beautiful swing. Failed to use it as god intended: beating the Irish. Alas. RIP.
  40. C. Yastrzemski. Polish potato farmer who went to Notre Dame. Overcame these handicaps to have a very fine career.
  41. P. Martinez. Fun fact: actually kept a “little person” around as a human pet. Many of my friends died to keep that from happening, sir.
  42. E. Collins. “Fun fact: All-time leader in assists (7,630) by a second baseman.” Nice to see ESPN using stats relevant in Collins’ day.
  43. B. Robinson. As a rule I never found that having the reputation of “able to catch anything” paid off in the places I frequented.
  44. S. Koufax. My 1884 had I pitched in Dodger Stadium: 74-1, 75 CG, 700 IP, 825 K.
  45. W. Spahn. This one . . . actually I like this one.
  46. A. Kaline. I really like him. Should be higher. But perhaps S. Brosius or “Trot” Nixon needed to be squeezed into the top 25.
  47. L. Grove. “…a 31-4 record with a 2.06 ERA and 27 complete games in 1931.” Oh my. How amazing. Try 59-12, 1.38 ERA and 73 Cgs in 1884.
  48. N. Lajoie. Overcame natural Gallic cowardice to have a brilliant career. Sure, rank him 48th, ESPN. It’s only a man’s name.
  49. L. Jones. Remember when he hit .364 as a broken 36-year-old and faced no scrutiny? It’s nice to be white.
  50. G. Alexander. Are you insane? 50? 12 below D. Jeter? Pro tip: if you smoke opium whilst making a list, proofread your work.
  51. E. Banks. “Let’s play two!” You idiot. In my day you played two because the other option was the stocks.
  52. J. Robinson. Bold to rank him so high. If you really wanted to take a stance, ESPN, you’d have included Negro Leaguers.
  53. R. Carew. Whatever.
  54. W. Boggs. Enjoyed fornication, beer, chicken, loose women, smashing doubles, invisibility, and his mustache. The consummate team-mate.
  55. R. Jackson. Would be much higher on this list had he killed the queen. Sic semper tyrannis, candy man.
  56. “Yogi” Berra. Italian catcher, the worst of two worlds. Yet it is fun to throw things at Italians. Cursed us all with his son, Dale.
  57. W. McCovey. Noted Irish explorer who landed at his eponymous cove off San Francisco in 1852. Later in life became a spice trader.
  58. R. Yount. Good player with odd performance spike in ’82 due to encased meat abuse. “Bud” Selig keeps a picture of Yount above his bed.
  59. R. Feller. No complaints. Earned his moniker from his first girl-friend. By the way, remember when Sports Center was fun? I don’t.
  60. O. Smith. All-glove, no-bat shortstop who could have been from my era except for the black thing. Forced out by T. LaRussa, that ass.
  61. T. Gwynn. Demented serial killer living a cover life as a chubby singles-hitting jolly fellow. You have been warned.
  62. F. Jenkins. Canadian (-1) Pharmaceutical smuggler (+1) who has compromising photos of a prominent Sweet Spot Blogger.
  63. H. Greenberg. Hard-hitting American hero who displayed great personal courage by playing in the wasteland of Detroit. He’s very good…
  64. H. Killebrew. Genial man who earned his nick-name after murdering V. Powers’ entire family during a dispute over a game of Parcheesi.
  65. E. Murray. Versatile player who hit his peak in his breakout 1983 with Trading Places.
  66. G. Perry. Blah blah blah ball doctoring. I don’t give two trips to the outhouse about this fellow. Where am I on this list?
  67. M. Rivera. Aided by guts, courage, and by being a 1/4 time player in a masturbatory media market which needed to pen a hagiography.
  68. J. Bagwell. It is nigh time to acknowledge the unspoken truth: while batting he looked like a defecating monkey.
  69. F. Thomas. Nicknamed “The Big Hurt” because your ears bleed when listening to him attempt to speak. Parlayed this skill into a TV job.
  70. J. Marichal. Under-appreciated ace who in a moment of passion made the key mistake of not swinging the bat hard enough.
  71. “Pudge” Rodriugez: A perfectly acceptable 1999 AL MVP assuming the untimely deaths of P. Martinez, R. Alomar, M. Ramirez, and D. Jeter.
  72. B. Blyleven. Flatulent fellow from the perfidious Low Countries. Overcame these handicaps to have a fine career. I’m better.
  73. R. Alomar. An Old Hoss Radbourn Hall of Famer from head to toe to expectoration to sexual disease transmission.
  74. B. Larkin. A fine soldier in M. Schott’s fascist army. A hard worker who committed the war crime of naming a child after Shea stadium.
  75. J. Smoltz. Insightful opinions on bestiality. Had he but done his job, we would never again speak of J. Morris.
  76. C. Fisk. Ego larger than you. If he had never lived there would be no “Good Will Hunting.” This would have been a fine thing.
  77. P. Molitor. Cocaine abusing ageless wonder should be ranked #1. Black men who hit well in their 40s face harsher scrutiny.
  78. M. Piazza. Ranked too low. But: poor back and shoulder hygiene is scientific proof of PEDs. M. Chass says so. This is a tough one.
  79. R. Roberts. “Fun fact: Pitched 28 consecutive complete games.” Go to hell.
  80. C. Gehringer. A worthy inclusion. Stole the 1937 MVP award from an Italian. Good man and fine patriot.
  81. “Duke” Snider. His inclusion is a tribute to the loyal fans of Brooklyn, who mercifully are all dying and can finally shut up.
  82. “Kid” Nichols. Trash. Never won more than 31 games. Earned his moniker from a Shanghai madam after she espied his manhood.
  83. M. McGwire. Would be ranked higher but angered all the scribes when the fellatio they gave him in 1998 gave them oral cancer in 2005.
  84. W. Stargell. Robbed of approximately 1,223 home runs by Forbes Field according to sane, rational Pirates fans.
  85. M. Ramirez. Fun test: ask a scribe if “enigmatic” is secret code for “IQ of 7.” I would have loved to have this guy on my team.
  86. G. Carter. I can’t do it. The rare case of ESPN getting something right, down to the number of his rank.
  87. F. Frisch. Teutonic lout who, despite his Fordham years, had to be reminded the difference between left and right. Generous with beer.
  88. “Pop” Anson. _____________ The space above that line is white, just like the game that filthy racist insisted we play.
  89. J. Palmer. Less popular with his team-mates than polio. Gave up 303 home runs, one for each of the fatherless children he abandoned.
  90. C. Biggio. In my day, a man hit by 285 pitches dies 285 times.
  91. P. Waner. “We need a guy from the black and white days to establish our bona fides. Oh, look at the clock. Time to worship T. Tebow.”
  92. R. Halladay. All man. Led the league with 7, 9, 9, 9, 8 CG from 2007-2011. The future is weak, soft, and pathetic.
  93. T. Glavine. Milquetoast lefty with a strike zone larger than E. Gregg. Not a bride or bridesmaid but rather the groom’s ugly sister.
  94. J. Thome. Nice fellow. IQ on par with the village idiot. This big lummox is not better than me.
  95. S. Sosa. Would not have been allowed to play in my day, a rare case of this rule benefitting everyone.
  96. T. Raines. More sabermetric semen has ben spilled over this man than any other player. I approve of his narcotics use.
  97. R. Santo. It is no fun to be elected to the Hall of Fame only after you have died. I know.
  98. J. Cronin. He’s ok. Cheap tipper. Real men win their only appearance in the World’s Series. I’m better than him.
  99. A. Simmons. Polish. Too many home runs. Fun fact: nicknamed “Bucketfoot” due to syphilitic gangrene. I’m better than him.
  100. P. Niekro. Knuckle-ball hurling trash. Good god, man, it took you 800 games to win 300. I’m better than him.

On the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot

I have always been fascinated and enamored with the Baseball Hall of Fame. My family went on a vacation to Cooperstown when I was young – seven or eight – and I’ve wanted to go back ever since. There’s something about the place. It’s not just sports history, but it’s truly American history, and there’s an aura around the Baseball Hall of Fame that makes it special.

Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Photo by Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Pretty soon, there will (probably) be some new additions to the Hall of Fame. You may have heard that there is a little bit of controversy over who these new additions should be. It’s a common issue with Hall of Fame voting – should Jim Rice get in or not? What about Bert Blyleven? Is Jack Morris’s resume good enough for induction? Why should they get in on their thirteenth or fourteenth or fifteenth try if they weren’t deemed worthy in their first twelve tries?

The debate this year won’t really be like that. Indeed, it’s been different the last few years, with the names of known and strongly suspected steroid users coming into play. Players who, in a different time, would be lock hall of famers – Rafael Palmeiro, who finished his career with 569 home runs and 3,020 hits, garnered just 12.6 percent of the vote last year, his second on the ballot. Mark McGwire, who hit 583 home runs and rejuvenated baseball in 1998 with his legendary quest to break Roger Maris’s single season home run record, only got 19.5 percent, in his sixth attempt. Jeff Bagwell, who hasn’t even been linked to steroids, only got 56 percent of the vote, despite a .297/.408/.540 career batting line with 449 home runs. Bagwell will probably get in someday – 56 percent is a lot for your second year – but the point is, power hitters from the steroid era are being looked at differently even if no one has ever accused them of juicing.

This year, the steroid-user-in-the-hall argument will be defined much more clearly. For the first time, the best hitter and best pitcher of the steroid era will be on the ballot – both players who are strongly believed to have been steroid users. We will really, truly find out how the BBWAA feels about these guys this year. These guys who probably would have had hall of fame careers without steroids.

With that being said, I will let you know who I would vote for, if I were voting for the hall of fame:

Continue reading

My apologies to Prince, but the Brewers really need to sign Zack Greinke

Prince Fielder has been outstanding this season.  He hit .299.  He hit 38 home runs, one behind Matt Kemp for the league lead.  He knocked in 120 runs.  He was a major reason why the Milwaukee Brewers have just finished at 96-66, the second best record in the National League.  All of these things are going to make Prince Fielder a very, very rich man next season.  Unfortunately, I’ve finally decided that the Brewers should just let him go.  I appreciate everything that Fielder has done for Milwaukee, and I have very much enjoyed watching him play nearly every game for the past six years.  However, the Brewers need to do something else with whatever money they have at the end of this season.  They need to offer it all to Zack Greinke.

Greinke has been fabulous.  And, the thing is, many people outside of Milwaukee don’t even know it.  Greinke pitched six innings tonight and gave up two runs to finish with a season ERA of 3.83.  Not bad, but look at Roy Halladay’s 2.35 or Clayton Kershaw’s 2.28 or Cliff Lee’s 2.40.  They make Zack Greinke look like Randy Wolf, right?

The thing is, that 3.83 ERA doesn’t tell the whole story.  In fact, it barely tells any of the story.  And, of course, you all know this.  Greinke’s bad luck has been well documented.  The high BABIP, the astronomical HR%.  The difference between Greinke’s FIP and ERA isn’t nearly as huge as it was early in the season, but it’s still pretty big – going into tonight’s start, Greinke’s FIP was 3.01.  His xFIP, expected Fielding Independent Pitching, was an NL-best 2.56.  It wasn’t even that close.  Lee was second with 2.69.

Greinke was also an absolute beast at Miller Park.  His win tonight made him a perfect 11-0 at home on the season, and there is a lot of talk that, after throwing only 74 pitches in tonights game, he would make the start in Milwaukee’s second playoff game on Sunday, on short rest, so that he could pitch at home.  Sounds good to me.

The point is, Greinke’s year was really underrated.  He meant an enormous amount to this team.  What was the difference between 77 wins in 2010 and 2011?  Well, mainly, Greinke and Shaun Marcum.  Greinke has the feel of a true ace.  His numbers haven’t always quite been there, but when Greinke was pitching, it almost seemed LIKELY that Greinke was going to pitch 8 innings, give up 3 hits and 1 run and strike out 12 guys.  It may not have happened as much as we’d hoped, but who knows, maybe that’s a good thing?  If I were Doug Melvin, I would take all the money that I was stashing to make a run at Prince Fielder and offer it to Greinke (and, while we’re at it, why not Shaun Marcum).  Offer Greinke a 5-year, 90 million dollar contract.  Or a 6 year 115 million dollar contract.  Something that doesn’t completely bust the bank account, but is enticing enough for Greinke to stay.

Normally, one would expect a star like Greinke to test the free agent market, but who knows, maybe he is different.  He seems to have enjoyed Milwaukee, and it is more or less out of the spotlight.  It could be a perfect place for him.  And if the Brewers are able to lock up Greinke for another several years, weak farm system be damned – a team that has Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, Jonathan Lucroy (and Taylor Green and Nyjer Morgan and Mat Gamel, etc) on the lineup card with a rotation headed by Yovani Gallardo (who is still only 25.  25!) and Zack Greinke and John Axford at the back of the bullpen is going to contend.  That’s as simple as it is.  With or without Fielder, that team will contend.  Maybe they won’t be as successful as they were this year, but they certainly won’t be bad.

I will miss Prince Fielder when he is playing for Washington or L.A. or Chicago or whoever it is he ends up with.  But I will cheer for him every time he comes back to Miller Park, and I’ll be happy for him if he finds success.  However, as tough as it is to say, I believe it would be a mistake to spend the extra money that the Brewers have obtained by means of this run of success on Fielder.  Greinke is the key to this team’s success, and he needs to stick around for the long haul.  Make it happen, Doug, and make me proud.

Defending Casey McGehee’s Defense

McGehee in the field - Good or Bad?

Casey McGehee, certainly, has had a down season.  He’s been much better lately, but I’ve noticed many people who still like to complain about him.  At this point, McGehee has turned his season around offensively, and I think most people would agree that there isn’t much to be worried about – McGehee is hitting almost .278/.325/.458 since the All-Star break, which stands up quite well to his .285/.337/.464 line from a year ago.

However, most of the complaints I see are about McGehee’s defense.  It is easy to lump McGehee in with the defensive shortcomings of Yuni Betancourt, and just blame the problem on “the left side of the infield.”  Certainly, McGehee hasn’t been Scott Rolen over there – his 18 errors are tied for third in the NL, and he is the only non-shortstop in the top 5.  He has committed 5 more errors than any other 3b in the National League, in fact.  I was curious, though, so I looked a little deeper into the numbers.

According to Fangraph’s Ultimate Zone Rating (the most trusted of defensive metrics), McGehee is actually having a good year as a defensive third baseman.  McGehee’s UZR/150 in 2011 is 8.0, which actually ranks fourth in the NL among third basemen who have logged more than 500 innings this season.

It’s true that McGehee’s first two seasons in Milwaukee weren’t outstanding defensively.  In 2010, McGehee recorded a UZR/150 of -4.0, and the seasons before that, he had an atrocious rating of -22.0.  Some of that, however, could be attributed to McGehee getting used to the majors.  McGehee actually had a pretty good defensive reputation in the minors.  According to baseball-reference’s numbers, McGehee rated 15 runs above average at third base throughout his minor league career.  I am having a hard time finding minor league scouting reports, but it seems that McGehee’s defensive reputation as a minor leaguer was that he was an above average, but not outstanding, fielder.

The above average part is important, to me.  Most people seem to think that McGehee is a horrible defender.  UZR seems to refute that idea.  I know that no defensive metrics are infallible, but the point is, I think McGehee is a better defender than he is given credit for.  Yes, 18 errors is bad – but McGehee has not only played more games at third base than any other National Leaguer this year, but his range has been good, so he has gotten to more balls.  Yes, McGehee has the most errors, but he has the most defensive chances by a significant margin – McGehee has had 298 defensive chances in 2011, and the second most in the NL is Chase Headley’s 267.

I believe that ‘the eyeball test’ stands up to this.  Ever since I began thinking about the shellacking that McGehee’s defensive reputation has been taking, I’ve been paying more and more attention to his defense during games.  McGehee does appear to have good range, and he has a strong, accurate arm.  He will even make an occasional surprisingly athletic move.  Compare that to Yuni, who is just a nightmare at shortstop – his fundamentals are atrocious, his arm is weak and inconsistent, and his range is terrible.  Whenever he makes an impressive looking play, you find yourself prefacing it with “yes, but it would have been much easier if he DIDN’T have the range of a large boulder.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing Casey to Mike Schmidt, but I do think that McGehee has been better defensively than anybody has given him credit for.  If you don’t believe me, just keep an eye on him next time you’re watching the Brewers, and I think you might be surprised.

Taking solace in the Brewer loss

Chin up, Marco.

No one likes to lose.  Baseball, however, is a game of failure.  The team that had the best record in the history of baseball still lost 46 times.  In baseball, you’re considered very good if you get a hit 3 out of 10 times, and considered an all time great if you happen to get hits 4 out of 10 times throughout a season.

This is something that Brewer fans may need to be reminded of.  The team has been so, so good over the past three weeks that we’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to lose.  Every single time the Brewers take the field, we, the fans, expect them to win.  And, for the most part, they have.  It’s been kind of crazy, if you think about it.  Prior to today’s loss, the team was 19-2 over its last 21 games.  19-2!  That’s crazy.  Almost ’07 Rockies good.  Even with the offense sputtering the last few games, the pitching has been so good that it didn’t matter.  The Brewers became just the sixth team since 1900 to win 5 straight games while scoring 3 runs or less.

Since the all-star break, Zack Greinke has looked like the Cy Young award pitcher of ’09 (despite worse peripherals – but hey, a balance had to be struck somewhere).  Even with Brett Lawrie raking for Toronto, Shaun Marcum hasn’t made me regret the trade for one second.  Yo has been Yo.  Randy Wolf is pitching out of his mind.  Even Marco Estrada has had a couple of very good starts.

Which brings me to this afternoon.  To stop the Brewers, it took Clayton Kershaw – one of the very best pitchers that MLB has to offer – vs. Marco Estrada, the Brewers’ sixth starter (who has only started 8 games in his major league career).  You can’t feel too badly when your sixth starter loses to Clayton Kershaw.  Losses have to happen sometimes.

One may say, “the Brewers offense has been bad – they haven’t scored more than 3 runs in a week!”  You would be correct.  However, it is rare that Brewer offensive slumps last much longer than 6 days.  And think about it – over this most recent Brewer offensive slump, they’ve gone 5-1.  There is no reason to expect a team to win 5 out of 6 games in which they fail to score 4 runs or more.  But the Brewers did.  There is also no reason to expect a team with Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder batting 1-4 to not score 4 runs or more for much longer than 6 games in a row.  Yes, Yuni is finally Yuni again, and McGehee is still questionable, and second base is still a question (although Hairston has looked good the last few games), but this is a good offense.  Don’t expect this slump to last much longer.

The only real issue could be the Brewers’ demanding schedule: they are in the midst of playing 17 games in 16 days, it’s late August, etc etc.  Not to worry.  The Brewers get 2 days off in 5 days starting next Thursday.  After that, Carlos Gomez and Rickie Weeks will probably be back, plus the September call-ups will arrive – plenty of time for Taylor Green to spell Casey McGehee at third.

Basically, I’m just happy to be a Brewer fan right now.  When it seems like the only way to beat this team is to throw Clayton Kershaw against Marco Estrada, then life is good.

Jonathan Lucroy: Unsung Hero

The Brewers just beat the Cardinals in game 1 of a huge 3-game series, and I am very happy, along with the rest of Brewer nation.  Especially on a night like tonight, where the Brewers were able to beat a good team while getting almost no production from their big stars.  Consider: Rickie Weeks, injured.  Ryan Braun, 0-5, big time error.  Prince Fielder, no hits in the first 9 innings (although he did have a big hit in the tenth), and should have been charged with an error.  The two biggest hits in this game came from the red hot Corey Hart (a third-inning two-run homer) and Casey McGehee (tenth-inning RBI double), two big stars from last year who have been a little more disappointing in 2011.

But one guy who I feel has been overlooked, even as the supporting cast has taken the spotlight lately, is Jonathan Lucroy.  Tonight, Lucroy quietly went 2-4 with a big RBI and a run scored.  It’s kind of the way it’s been for Lucroy this season – putting up solid, unspectacular, largely unnoticed numbers.  On the season, Lucroy is batting .286/.326/.406 with 8 homers and 48 RBIs.  Since the Brewers’ spectacular streak started a couple weeks ago, Lucroy has gone 13-38 with a homer and 9 RBIs.  Again, solid, but no one is really talking about it.  Consider that Lucroy has batted almost exclusively 8th this season – his RBI numbers could be significantly higher if he had been batting higher.  I always wondered why Roenicke didn’t give Lucroy a shot in the 5-hole when there was so much trouble there.

You might think that a .286 batting average with 8 homers and 48 batted in isn’t all that spectacular.  Remember, though, that Lucroy is a catcher.  Among catchers in all of baseball with 300 ABs, Lucroy ranks fourth in batting average, behind only Brian McCann, Yadier Molina, and Alex Avila, who were all all-stars.  His 48 RBIs are the third-most by an NL catcher – once again, mainly from the 8 spot in the order.

In the field, Lucroy has been as advertised.  He has thrown out 26 percent of runners this season.  Not a fantastic number, but serviceable.  Anyone watching him has seen that he is very good at blocking balls in the dirt.  He has also done a good job handling the Milwaukee pitching staff – a staff with two newcomers.

Now, remember that Lucroy is only 25, he is in just his second major league season, and he was hurried to the majors last year because of an injury to Gregg Zaun.  It’s difficult for anyone to hit .285 in their second season, but few expected it from a catcher who never had a major offensive reputation in the minors.

The Brewers have been lucky enough to have a lot of major contributors this season, but I’m gonna go ahead and say that Jonathan Lucroy is the Milwaukee Brewers’ unsung hero.